BTECs: ‘It’s not safe for us to take these exams’

One student begs Gavin Williamson to do a U-turn on January exams – and calls out what he sees as a disregard for vocational students
5th January 2021, 11:23am
Nathan Green

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BTECs: ‘It’s not safe for us to take these exams’

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/secondary/btecs-its-not-safe-us-take-these-exams
Btecs: 'it's Not Safe For Us To Take These Exams'

Last night, the prime minister announced a national lockdown ordering people to stay at home and save lives. He told the nation - to no one's surprise - that schools and colleges would be closed for in-person teaching for the foreseeable future. And, despite education secretary Gavin Williamson's "cast-iron" guarantee that the summer's exams would not be cancelled this year, it looks like they will be.

However, once again, vocational students are being completely disregarded.

The Department for Education last night (at 9:23pm) confirmed that January's vocational exams would go ahead as planned. The government had clearly planned for the cancellation of GCSE/A-level exams in their latest U-turn, but what about the exams in January, the ones that start the next day?


BTECs: Dismay at DfE decision on January exams 

National lockdown: AoC urges DfE to cancel BTEC exams

Summer exams: GCSE and A level 2021 exams won't happen 'as normal'


Despite a national order to stay at home, the DfE thinks that it is acceptable to expect students to sit an exam in these circumstances.

'We are not immune to this virus'

Why is it acceptable for the government to cancel exams that are 23 weeks away, but not the exams that are taking place in 12 hours, with cases soaring above 50,000 a day? We are not immune to this virus. Why should we be forced to go and sit our exam because we take vocational courses?

Even without an announcement on the cancellation of exams, students would have been grateful for the peace of mind that their exams - due to start in 11 hours - had, at the very least, been postponed.

And, of course, no exam can happen without the invigilators. What about that risk? The risk of those people coming in to supervise us? It's not safe for us to take these exams - and it's not safe for our invigilators and teachers either. 

The government has always spoken about the impact that closing schools and colleges has on our mental health. But what about the impact on students' mental health when their exams hang in the balance, only because they do not take the traditional form of examinations?

It is completely abysmal that the government has shown no consideration for vocational students. Last night I wrote to the education secretary calling for an explanation for all vocational students about why we were forgotten about and for an apology for their poor and last-minute handling.

It is of great disappointment that vocational/BTEC students did not even warrant a mention in the prime minister's announcement to the nation.

And so, now, I call again on Gavin Williamson and the government: please, for the sake of all BTEC/vocational students, I am begging you, reconsider and cancel these exams.

Nathan Green is a student at a sixth-form college in England

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